Gott, William, born 13-08-1897 in Harrow, London, educated at Harrow School he was commissioned into the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Gott served with distinction with the British Expedionary Forces in France during World War I. His nickname “Strafer” was a pun on the German WWI slogan “Gott strafe England”, “God punish England”. He was promoted to the rank of captain in January 1921 and attended Staff College from January 1931. He was promoted major in July 1934, having been made a brevet major earlier in January. His service between the World Wars included a posting as adjutant to a territorial battalion and a period of postings in India as a General Staff officer and Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General. Promoted to lieutenant-colonel in October 1938 to command the 1st Battalion KRRC on its transfer from Burma to Egypt to become part of the Mobile Division, later to become 7th Armoured Division, Gott enjoyed a remarkably rapid promotion path: he was successively chief staff officer of the division ranked lieutenant-colonel, commander of the Support Group as acting Brigadier, and General Officer Commanding, acting Major-General of the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats. While under Gott’s command the Support Group performed well during the Italian invasion of Egypt, conducting a planned withdrawal, and the subsequent Operation Compass which saw the destruction of the Italian Tenth Army. Following the arrival of German troops in North Africa the British Commonwealth forces were pushed back to the Libyan border with Egypt where Gott was placed in command of a mixed force to plan and conduct Operation Brevity which was unsuccessful. A subsequent larger scale operation, Operation Battleaxe in which the support Group also took part was also a failure and led to a reorganization of the commands in the Western Desert which included Gott’s promotion to command the 7th Armoured Division. In late 1941 the next major Commonwealth offensive, Operation Crusader, took place. Although ultimately the operation was a success for British Eighth Army , 7th Armoured Division, nicknamed “Lucky Seventh” was heavily defeated by the Africa Corps at Sidi Rezegh in November 1941. Gott’s permanent rank had been made up to full colonel in October 1941 and he was promoted to acting Lieutenant-General and given command of XIII Corps in early 1942. He led the corps in the battles of Gazala and First Alamein, this victory was the turning point in the Africa war. In August 1942, Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill removed General, Sir Claude Auchinleck as Commander-in-Chief Middle East and acting General Officer Commanding Eighth Army . Gott’s aggressive, somewhat impetuous personality appealed to Churchill, and he was strongly recommended by Anthony Eden, who had served with Gott in World War I. Gott was chosen to take over Eighth Army. This was despite the reservations of Auchinleck and General, Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Brooke knew Gott very well and had a high opinion of his abilities. However, a number of factors, including a personal interview with Gott on 5 August, during which Gott had revealed that he had “…tried most of his ideas on the Boche. We want someone with new ideas and plenty of confidence in them.”, led Brooke to conclude that Gott was tired and had temporarily lost his drive having been in the desert since the start of the war. He also felt that Gott needed more experience before taking an army command.
Death and burial ground of Gott, William Henry Ewart “Strafer”.
Before he could take up his post, William Gott was killed when an unarmed transport plane he had hitched a lift in, a Bristol Bombay of 216 Squadron RAF flown by 19-year-old Flight Sergeant Hugh “Jimmy” James, was shot down by Unter Offizier Bernd Schneider of Jagd Geschwader 27, nickname “Afrika” under command of Oberst Eduard Neumann, while returning to Cairo from the battle area. Neumann here with General der Flieger, Adolf Galland died very old age 93, on 09-08-2004 of a long illness. By 8 May, the remains of JG 27 were based near Salzburg, Austria. JG 27’s commander surrendered to the American forces nearby. Although official records were lost at the end of the war, research suggests Jagdgeschwader 27 claimed over 3.100 kills for some 1.400 aircraft lost, and lost approximately 827 pilots killed, missing or POW during 1939-45. With both engines out, James had made a successful crash landing but the passengers, including Gott, died in the ensuing fire when the rear hatch jammed. There is speculation that the Germans were aware that he was on board the aircraft through signals interception but this has never been proved. Gott’s replacement was Lieutenant-General, Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery, who had always been Brooke’s preferred choice. He is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at the El Alamein War Cemetery.